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Monday 7th December 2009

SFL Weekend Review And Comment

In-depth round-up

IRN-BRU SFL First Division

Whatever Dundee boss Jocky Scott said in the dressing room to his players at half time in the ALBA Challenge Cup Final fifteen days ago has proven to be a terrific catalyst in both the short and medium term.

Scoot’s men overturned a two goal deficit to lift the first domestic trophy of the season that day and they now sit five points clear at the top of the First Division after defeating Partick Thistle 2-0 at Firhill on Saturday, just four days after defeating Ross County 1-0 on their own patch as well.

The style that swept Inverness aside at McDiarmid Park has been augmented with a dogged determination with the Dark Blues, who lost Leigh Griffiths before kick off with a migraine, having to dig deep at both Dingwall and Firhill to gain three points.

Thistle dominated the first half with Steve Lovell, Simon Donnelly, Stephen McKeown and Mark Corcoran all going close, however they lost goals on either side of half time to see all three points go to Scott’s men.

Colin McMenamin pounced a minute from the break, when he scored at the second attempt after Jamie Adams had spectacularly stopped his first effort going over the line with a scissors kick, to transform the game.

Former Firhill favourite Gary Harkins, booed in seasonal Pantomime style whenever he touched he ball, swept in a second 2 minutes after the break and Thistle could not find a way back in after that.

Dundee boss Scott said, “You can have the best players available to you but that is no use unless they want to win. Today our players showed how much they wanted to win, they are delighted and so they should be. It really is an excellent victory in what has been a great couple of weeks for us.”

Thistle manager Ian McCall had very mixed emotions saying, “We were excellent and were the better team but if you do not take your chances you lose games. If it had been 3-0 us at half-time no-one would have complained but it wasn’t and we have no-one to blame but ourselves. Whoever finishes above Dundee will win the league and from what I saw today we are as good if not better than them.”

Referee Alan Muir, who was blasted by Motherwell’s Jim Gannon and Dundee United’s Craig Levein for his handling of their SPL match last weekend, may have thought he would have an easier time of it in the First Division however it was not to be.

The whistler was the centre of attention again as Queen of the South and Inverness Caledonian Thistle drew 1-1 at Palmerston Park where three players were dismissed and Caley boss Terry Butcher was sent to the stand for his reaction to one of Muir’s decisions.

The game started off in pretty sedate style with Jonny Hayes speeding through the home defence to net after 17 minutes with Muir becoming the centre of attention with just 20 minutes left. Thistle forward Adam Rooney appeared to be fouled by Marc McAusland as he bore down on goal, and when Muir waved play on Butcher aired his frustration on the touchline and was ordered to cool down in the stand.

Butcher’s mood would not have been helped as Richie Foran was given a red card shortly afterwards for picking up his second yellow and the home side’s Bob Harris thumped home a leveller from a free kick some 25 yards from goal with quarter of an hour to go.

Doonhamer’s skipper David Lilley went to retrieve the ball from Caley’s net, where Russell Duncan was not to keen to hand it over and after consulting both assistants Muir took his red card usage up to three by sending both of them off.

Butcher left the talking to his assistant Maurice Malpas, who said, “It is not my job to criticise referees as they have supervisors in the stand. All I will say is that Mr Dallas will be getting a call on Monday as it is up to him to worry about referees. Terry is a passionate guy but there was no malice in his protests and it certainly looked like Adam had been fouled.”

Queen’s boss Gordon Chisholm commented, “I have to be pleased after a couple of defeats but I certainly did not think there was any red card involved when David Lilley went to get the ball back. How could the linesman in the other half see it?”

Dunfermline’s fine run of form came to an unexpected end as they went down to 1-0 to Ayr United at Somerset Park with Brian Reid’s side winning in the league for only the second time this season. Ryan Stevenson netted the all important goal 7 minutes into the second half when he shot home a cut-back from on-line Hearts player Ryan McGowan.

Graham Bayne had gone close for the Pars earlier on with substitute Andy Kirk coming closest to a leveller but the Honest Men held on for the win. Ayr boss Brian Reid was understandably delighted, “We are on a good run of our own, with three clean sheets in four games and unbeaten in four and we will take confidence from this.”

East End Park boss Jim McIntyre said ruefully, “We did not play at all, were sloppy and the pace of our game was all wrong. I am hoping it is just a one-off after a good run.”

Raith Rovers against Airdrie was washed away preventing new signing Thierry Gathuessi from making his full debut for the Kirkcaldy side. The former Hibs defender played against Morton three weeks against as a trialist and he has signed a short term deal until the transfer window opens in January.

IRN-BRU SFL Second Division

Recently appointed Clyde manager John McCormack oversaw a second win of the season for the Bully Wee over Arbroath in his first full game in charge with ‘Cowboy’s’ legendary enthusiasm seeing him kick every ball and cover every blade of grass as he darted about his technical area. At one stage he had to be told off by the referee’s assistant for encroaching on the pitch, the fact that McCormack had wandered so far that he was on the playing surface in front of his opponents’ white lined area, seemed to be sum up the drive McCormack had for his club to get their fourth victory of the season.

It was a vital triumph as the gap at the foot of the table was reduced to just one point in favour of the Gayfield men and came about in the dying seconds of the first half. Willie McLachlan curled in a free kick from the left wing that had strikers and defenders stretching to head the ball, only for it to tiptoe in at the back post of its own accord with Darren Hill stranded on his line.

Former Dundee, Queen’s Park and Morton boss McCormack said, “The most important thing was to get the points and I thought for long spells of the game, the players went about their business really well. A bit of naivety crept in towards the end and that put us under a bit of pressure. It will take time to teach them how to consolidate in a game but the players are willing to learn.”

McCormack added, “We lost our shape but at the moment I do not care too much as the win was vital. It was not a lucky win as Arbroath put lots of balls into the box without creating too many chances.”

Injury hit Arbroath should have left Broadwood with a point and boss Jim Weir, who was listed amongst the substitutes as a trialist, was pleased with the effort put in, however he is conscious that they lack confidence in both the first and final third of the pitch.

Weir advised, “You don’t lose thirty odd goals and not have a fault at the back so we do need to improve defensively. We gave away a needless free kick and should have defended it better but overall we were okay defensively in this game. Up front, we are lacking a cutting edge.”

Alloa jumped to third place thanks to a 2-0 win at East Fife, where home goalkeeper Mark Ridgers was badly at fault when he helped Gary Carroll’s cross on the half hour mark into his own net with the on-loan Hearts kid making amends shortly afterwards when he kept out an Andy Scott spot kick.

On-loan Morton striker Iain Russell secured the win, after the Fifers had came close on a couple of occasions, with a smart finish with just 7 minutes left to leave manager Allan Maitland beaming, “We deserved the win and whilst the first goal came from a mistake we had created loads of chances by then.”

New Bayview boss Steve Crawford lamented, “Our lack of experience is hindering us as we lost our shape after losing a bad first goal. The better team won.”

IRN-BRU SFL Third Division

Livingston made it nineteen points out of a possible twenty one at Almondvale this season to continue their lead at the top of the Third Division with a 3-0 win over Stranraer. Robbie Winters netted early when he capitalised on a Murray Henderson error, and Stranraer continued to aide their own downfall when Glenn Mitchell turned the ball into his own net before half time. Promising striker Andrew Halliday wrapped things up in the second period, when he slotted home a David Sinclair pass to have Livi boss Gary Bollan beaming, “Not many managers will complain after a good performance, a clean sheet and three goals. Long may it continue.”

Visiting Stranraer boss Keith Knox also had no complaints, commenting, “We were well beaten but we were basically playing against a team who are First Division material. We had half chances to level but the better side won.”

Berwick Rangers continue to enjoy a fine season, with their 2-0 success over Elgin City at Shielfield, being their fourth win in five games and consolidating their second place in the table. The visitors lost defender Paul Kaczan to a red card when the scores were still level, 10 minutes into the second half, with Fraser McLaren and Ian Little heading in to take advantage of the extra man.

The Borderers boss Jimmy Crease said, “After being at Dingwall last Saturday and Montrose during the week, it says a lot about the players that they go out and get a win today. The points are very welcome and we put together some good moves.”

The match turned on Kaczan’s dismissal with Borough Briggs boss Ross Jack complaining, “It warranted a yellow card and you can see how that decision changed the course of the game.”

Forfar were denied right at the death by Albion Rovers in their 2-2 draw at Station Park with referee Scott McDonald and the Loons’ players receiving a blast from a disgruntled Dick Campbell. The Forfar boss advised, “I am gutted that we did not win that game and I do not know where the referee got six minutes of injury time from. Mind you, I have experienced players out there who should know not to give the ball away.”

Ciaran Donnelly had the Coatbridge side ahead early only for a goal in each half from former Rover Ian Harty, looking to have kept all the points in Angus until substitute Pat Walker popped up to grab a share of the spoils via the woodwork.

Coatbridge boss Paul Martin said very happily, “It was great to see the boys stick at it and get something for their efforts.”

Annan defeated Queen’s Park 3-1 at Galabank to move to the fringes of the play-off chasing pack with late goals from Bryan Gilfillan and Mike Jack, from the penalty spot, being the difference. Jack had opened the scoring before half time with a fine curling shot with Ryan Holms side-footing in a leveller for the Glasgow side 12 minutes into the second period.

Black and Gold Chief Harry Cairney said, “Bryan had been struggling with flu earlier in the week so to perform as well as he did and also to grab a goal was excellent.”

Spiders head coach Gardner Speirs was disappointed advising, “We were creating all the chances and I could not see us losing.”